What is smishing?

Most people are already aware of the risks associated with clicking on links in emails, but only a few are aware of the danger of clicking on links in text messages. Since users trust SMS messages more, smishing often turns out to be a profitable method of attack for attackers to steal credentials, financial information and personal data of victims.

Smishing has also become a serious problem for corporate cybersecurity, as the use of mobile devices for business is becoming more common as a result of the development of remote work and the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that smishing has become a common type of cyberattacks.

What is smishing?

Smishing is a type of phishing attack in which a fraudster through an SMS message persuades the victim to open a malicious attachment or click on a malicious link.

During a cyberattack, a hacker fraudulently forces the victim to disclose confidential information in order to use it for fraud or other malicious actions. Sometimes malware or phishing websites can contribute to smishing.

SMS messages usually come on behalf of a legitimate organization – the user’s bank, service provider, mobile operator, or even a government service.

Smishing (smishing = SMS + phishing) is a type of social engineering attack that is based on exploiting human trust, deceiving the user, and not on technical exploits.

How does smishing work?

To commit a smishing attack, a fraudster must perform the following steps:

The first step is to make you feel obligated to respond. The message may be related to money, for example, the promise of a lot of earnings or the offer of a way to protect your money;

The second step is to convince you to follow the link in the message that will lead to a phishing website. This site is designed to be similar to the site you expect to see. For example, if it is a bank, then the phishing site will have the same fonts, logos and color combinations that are on the official website of the bank;

The third step implies that you enter your personal information, username and password of your account yourself.

This completes the fraudster’s scheme. In addition, the purpose of smishing may be to steal funds directly from a bank account, fraud with personal data for the illegal opening of credit cards or the disclosure of private corporate data.

A smishing attack can also be performed in fewer steps. For example, the source text may contain a link, when clicked, malware is downloaded to steal your personal data.

Types of smishing attacks

Messages in a smishing attack are sent to victims under various pretexts. Some of them are:

Information about COVID-19;

Financial services offer;

Notification of a win or gift;

Message from the customer support service;

Please confirm the invoice or order.

How to recognize smishing

Smishing is easy to recognize if you know its signs. Here’s how to determine if you are the target of a smishing attack:

Requesting credentials

The username and password of your account may be requested by a fraudster to gain access to the service you use. The reasons why a hacker requires credentials are individual for each user. Therefore, you should be careful every time someone requests your data through a message.

Attachments and links in SMS

Most often, smishing messages contain links to a fake website that may collect your personal information. Therefore, never click on the links in the SMS.

If you did follow the link, then pay attention to the signs of a phishing website, for example, a URL without “http”.

Request for funds transfer

Be skeptical about money transfer requests sent by SMS. Remember that not all fraudulent schemes are obvious. A key element of smishing attacks is gaining trust. The attacker pretends to be someone you know well or trust.

Suspicious phone number

SMS can come from a phone number that looks unusual. If you see a suspicious number and an even more suspicious message, do not reply to it and delete the SMS as soon as possible.

“You have won!”

You do not need to believe such messages, especially if you did not participate in any competition. Such an SMS may be interesting, but you should not click on the attached links. You need to delete the message immediately.

Urgent notification

Most phishing emails and SMS messages contain urgent requests designed to scare the recipient. However, any trusted organization will notify customers in advance of the need for urgent action. Delete the message and contact the company on whose behalf this message was sent.

How to prevent smishing

To avoid becoming a victim of this type of attack, you must adhere to the following security measures:

Never trust text messages that you unexpectedly receive on behalf of a bank or mobile operator for no reason;

Be careful with SMS messages in which you are asked to call a phone number or go to a web page to solve a problem or urgently confirm your data;

Do not respond to messages that request personal information, such as bank card details. Always check the legitimacy of the sender;

Never reply to messages requesting a PIN code, password for online banking or other services;

Download apps from trusted and trusted app stores. Some smishing attacks may be aimed at tricking the victim into installing a malicious application on the device;

Confirm the sender’s number. Unusual phone numbers, such as four-digit ones, may indicate the use of email-to-text conversion services. This is one way to hide your real phone number;

Use two-factor authentication. It is an additional layer of security in case you become a victim of an attack and give out one of your passwords. Biometric authentication also uses fingerprint technology and facial recognition to verify your identity when you try to log in.

How to mitigate a smishing attack?

Report a suspicious SMS to law enforcement agencies and contact your bank or service provider;

Freeze your account to avoid funds being stolen;

Change all passwords and PIN codes;

Monitor your finances and various online accounts to identify unauthorized access to the system and other fraudulent activities.


With the advent of remote work as well as BYOD policies, mobile devices are becoming an integral part of the business, making mobile security more important than ever. It is important to recognize that smishing attacks pose a serious threat to both organizations and individuals. Therefore, it is necessary to act accordingly in order to protect yourself and the organization from malicious actions of an attacker.

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